Friday, September 28, 2007

Nonfiction Five Challenge Wrap Up

Although I do enjoy reading some nonfiction, it is often my last choice when I am considering something to read. To motivate myself to read some of those nonfiction books that had been languishing on my shelves, I joined Joy's Nonfiction Five Challenge. The goal was to read 5 nonfiction books of my choosing over a 5 month period, from May through September.

I had quite a list of books to choose from and narrowing it down was hard. I hoped to read some of my alternates in addition to my main selections, but I was not able to. I did, however, read two nonfiction books that were not on my list during the course of the challenge. Because they were not on my list to read for the challenge, I am not including them in this wrap up.

My Nonfiction Selections:
Death's Acre by Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson
The Nazi Officer's Wife by Edith Hahn Beer
Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak by Jean Hatzfeld
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach

What was my favorite Nonfiction book of the five I read?

Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak was one of the most powerful of the books I read this past summer. It was difficult to read about the ruthless and violent killings of so many innocent people based solely on their ethnicity. The fact that their friends and neighbors were the ones that turned on them made it even more frightening. Machete Season offered some insight into the the minds of the killers. The author, Jean Hatzfeld, took great care with his subject matter and presented it as plainly as he could. It was not a book he intended to write, he didn't even want to write it at first, but it was something he eventually came to feel he should write.

Following in at second is Edith Hahn Beer's The Nazi Officer's Wife, which is one woman's story of her life in Europe during World War II. She was a Jewish woman who passed herself off as a Christian in order to survive the Holocaust. The author was forced to work in labor camps and a factory before seeking refuge under a new identity. She lived with a constant terrifying fear of discovery and was cut off from her family and friends. This was a heartwrenching and informative story to say the least.

What book could I have done without?

Of all the books I read for the challenge, there is not one I regret reading. I purposefully tried to pick a variety subject matter wise, not wanting to overdo it in one area or another.

Did you try out a new author for this challenge? If so, which one, and will you be reading that author again?

I had read books by only two of the authors before, those being Mary Roach and Jon Krakauer. Both had written books I thoroughly enjoyed and resulted in my wanting to read the two books I chose to read for this challenge. Into the Wild was a bit of a departure for me. Had I not read the author's book, Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, and then heard so many good things about Into the Wild, I probably would not have picked up the book in the first place. I am glad I did take a chance on it though. Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach was very much up my alley, on the other hand. The subject matter fascinates me. I was quite taken with her first book, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, and so it seemed only natural to read Spook.

This was my first opportunity to read books by the other three authors. I would definitely not mind reading more by Jean Hatzfeld. He has another book out related to the Rwanda genocide that I hope to read someday. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson have a new book out called Beyond the Body Farm, which I may read down the road. I definitely do plan to read the authors' fictional series, beginning with Carved in Bone. As to Edith Hahn Beer, I do not believe she has written another book.

What was the best part of the Nonfiction Five Challenge?

The best part of the challenge was finally getting to read a handful of the nonfiction books I had been meaning to get to but always seemed to pass over. This was a great excuse to find the motivation to dive right in. I am so glad I did. My only regret is that I did not get to read any of my alternates.

As always with challenges like this, I have enjoyed following the progress of other participants and seeing what everyone else is reading. My wishlist and TBR collection continues to grow each time I come across a book someone else has read that sounds too good to pass up. Because my interest mostly lies in fiction, I am not always up to date on all of the nonfiction books out there. Challenges like this are a great way to find out about books that might interest me and to meet new people.

Many thanks to Joy for hosting this fun challenge.


  1. Congratulations! I never bother to stick to my lists; my goal is usually just to read from my own shelves when doing a challenge. You did terrific.

  2. Nancy - Thank you! I'm learning by reading other people's blogs that the rules for these challenges aren't quite as rigid as they might seem at first. It makes sense though, considering part of the point is to have fun.

  3. Congratulations on finishing the challenge. You did really well. I'm trying to be more flexible about my lists so that it doesn't become a chore.
    I added both Machete Season and The Nazi Officer's Wife to my wishlist after your reviews. Like you, I tend not to pick up NF very often but do enjoy it when I do. I wonder if Joy will host it again next year?

  4. Congratulations! I'm glad that you enjoyed the challenge, Literary Feline!

    My goal for the challenge was to not only give readers a 'reason' to read some non-fiction, but to help them branch out of the "memoir-rut". I'm a HUGE fan of memoirs, so I know that rut very well. :)

    Note to Self: Challenge is almost over, remember to push The Nazi Officer's Wife up the list! *giggle*

  5. Tanabata - Thanks! When making up my lists for challenges, I try and pick books I want to read "now". I think that's really helped keep me motivated and interested. Most of the time, anyway. :-)

    I hope you will find Machete Season and The Nazi Officer's Wife to be as compelling as I did. They are definitely worth reading, I think.

    Joy - Thank you! This challenge was a lot of fun. Reading good nonfiction always makes me wonder why I don't read more of it. And yet I still struggle sometimes to pick it over the fiction.

    Memoirs probably make up most of my nonfiction reading too, but I'm really picky about the memoirs I will read. I didn't go into this challenge intending to limit the memoirs I read. I just wanted to clear off some of those nonfiction books from my TBR shelves. I was more concerned about mixing up the subject matter so I didn't get burnt out. LOL

  6. If you like memoir, you must read Mary-Ann Tirone Smith's GIRLS OF TENDER AGE. While the book centers on the murder of one of her classmates when she was 10, the book also shows us what it was like to grow up with an autistic brother in the 1950s. It's funny and sad and amazingly riveting.

  7. Karen - Thank you for the recommendation. I will definitely have to look for that one.

  8. Wow, you chose some very powerful books for your challenge. I congratulate you for your bravery in reading Machete Season as well as the Nazi Officer's Wife. Did you read one after the other or take a break in between? Those would be tough to read back to back.

  9. Jaimie - I did take a break in between the nonfiction books. I tried to space them out, one per month, and that seemed to work well. I can only take so much serious before I need to take in something light. :-)


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